By Han Sang-hee
The Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-660 A.D.) is commonly known as the "lost kingdom", probably because there are not many historical records, artifacts or sites that can give us clues compared to other kingdoms. Broadcaster EBS has been seeking to find more about the hidden history and culture, and it finally offers its documentary "Sabiseong, the Lost City" this week.
The documentary features an extraordinary journey and insights into King Seong, the 26th king of the Baekje Kingdom. The relatively young ruler had a grand vision and also great interest in geography, and was able to come up with something not many kings thought of: moving the nation's capital.
The kingdom, which was originally located in Woongjin, what is now Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, was politically torn and ravaged by wars; the young king understood that change was needed to bring back the glorious days of his kingdom. Despite opposition from royal officials who feared the move would affect their political stance, the king spearheaded the project and founded the first city built under specific and heavy planning in Korea's history.
The only historical record left of the grand project is "In the 16th year of King Seong's reign, Baekje moved its capital to Sabi" according to the ancient book "Samguksagi", or "The History of Three Kingdoms". Baekje was famous for its rich culture in both architecture and artifacts, but it was only after 1993, when a Baekje gilt-bronze incense burner was discovered that historians and archeologists started to show interest in the kingdom.
"The moving of the capital took 15 years, but there was very little information we could find", Kim Min-tae, the producer of the documentary, said during a press conference Tuesday at Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province, then capital Sabiseong, where the program was mostly filmed.
"It was like searching for a pearl in the mud. We later discovered more records, but it was very difficult to obtain the information we needed for the program", he added.
The producer and his staff spent more than six months searching, studying and checking facts with 13 experts, including historians, architects, archeologists and even astronomers.
After paying visits to numerous historic sites and museums in Buyeo and Gongju, ("I think I have Buyeo in the palm of my hand", the producer told The Korea Times) the team finally managed to come up with the first documentary that rebuilds a whole city.
Moving and building a city is not an easy task, even today when there are various tools and machinery that can help, but King Seong was determined and smart. He knew that the land where he was planning to build his capital was a swamp, and through scientific research and insight, the king led his people to build one of the most sophisticated cities in Korean history.
Through the program, viewers can watch exactly how hard it was for both King Seong and his people to move their capital from one place to another, eventually building well-planned streets, walls and drain systems on the swampy land.
Adding a bit more
"Sabiseong, The Lost City" is a documentary about Baekje's capital, but due to the limited amount of information and historical records, it was inevitable to add a bit of fiction to the show.
"Instead of just sticking to historical facts, the makers added a little of drama that seemed plausible. The show is not something made with fancy computer graphics, but something that brings life to the artifacts and sites of Baekje. Something the future generation may talk about and learn from", EBS said through a press release.
Indeed, the show was more than just a documentary that listed artifacts, historical records and experts' interpretations.
Most of all, the program is a story about how a young king managed to persuade his people to move their homes and life to a rather skeptical land that was mostly swamp. The narrator is not the king, but his most loyal servant and trusted royal official Sataekgiru, who leads the program from start to finish in an interview form, adding a bit more drama and familiarity to the work.
Another important factor that added reality to the program is the computer graphics. More than 30 percent of the work included blue screen editing and in order to create high-definition, movie-like scenes, the staff used the Red One camera, for the first time for a local documentary.
The computer graphics are superb. The overview of the palace, temples and villages seems real, while the graphics add more intensity and depth to the overall work.
Being an education channel, it seems that EBS also kept the educational aspect in mind as well. Building a capital, whether it is on normal or swamp land, is a difficult and long process, and without specific planning and ideas, it cannot go through.
Some important artifacts and architectural techniques used during the time have been discovered over the years and the program offers them in great detail, comparing them with modern methods and explaining them one by one.
"We wanted to bring something different about Baekje to the audience, and we hope this will create yet another image of the kingdom we know little about", Kim added.
The three-episode "Sabiseong, the Lost City" will start airing tonight at 9:50 p.m. on EBS through Wednesday.
A computer graphic image of "Sabiseoung", the capital of Bakeje Kingdom. EBS' "Sabisoung, the Lost City" airs tonight at 9:50 p.m. to shed light on the kingdom's mysterious history and culture. / Courtesy of EBS